Monday, November 13, 2006

Roche-Mabthera could have $1 bln autoimmune sales

By Sam Cage

BASEL, Switzerland, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Sales of Roche Holding AG's (ROG.VX: Quote, Profile, Research) MabThera to treat autoimmune diseases could surpass $1 billion a year worldwide, senior company executives told Reuters on Monday.

MabThera, already a top-selling cancer drug, has been approved for use in rheumatoid arthritis and could be used in several other autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and multiple sclerosis, said Urs Schleuniger, Roche's business director for hematology and autoimmune diseases.

"It's potentially a series of different indications where there are high unmet needs," Schleuniger said in an interview. "I think it will add up."

Schleuniger also said Roche planned to file its Actemra treatment for use in the United States, European Union and Switzerland against autoimmune diseases in late 2007.

Actembra could also achieve blockbuster sales in that area, executives said.

"I would not be too surprised if it was somewhere in that area (of $1 billion)," said Guido Magni, head of medical science at Roche. "There is a lot that is cooking in our kitchen in autoimmune."

Industry analysts believe Roche's push into arthritis and other autoimmune diseases could open the door to billions of dollars in additional annual sales.

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